Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance

Published: 21 May 2024 Updated: 22 May 2024
Citroen e-C3 review: the new all-electric C3 tested
  • At a glance
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  • 4 out of 5

By Phil McNamara

Group editor, CAR magazine

By Phil McNamara

Group editor, CAR magazine

► It’s our Citroen e-C3 review
► We drive back-to-basics EV
► Simplicity galore, comfort too

Been waiting for an affordable electric car that isn’t made in China? It’s finally here: the all-new Citroen e-C3. For just under £22,000, UK buyers are promised a compact SUV with a 198-mile range, reasonably brisk public recharging and a spacious cockpit majoring on occupant comfort. 

Has the Slovakian-built C3, also available as a 100hp Puretech petrol car, got what it takes to beat the Chinese exported BYD Dolphin (£31k) and MG 4 (£27k)? Read our detailed first drive review to find out if it’s good enough to become one of our favourite cheapest electric cars

Pros: Good value for an EV, impressive space, splendid comfort
Cons: Stepped boot, aloof steering 

Sounds like witchcraft: how has Citroen delivered a sub-£22,000 EV? 

The Stellantis group has repositioned Citroen as its value brand, to take on budget brand Dacia (owned by cross-town rival Renault). Dacia’s cheapo EV, the Dacia Spring, is coming to the UK in October 2024 and prices will start from £14,995. But the Chinese-built Dacia isn’t fishing in the e-C3’s pool: it’s about 300mm shorter (more city car than supermini), has noticeably less power and only goes about 140 miles between charges.

How has Citroen delivered a bigger, plusher, errr, rangier car at this price? With an obsessive focus on costs: this car is to value EVs what the McLaren Senna is to stripped-out, track-monstering hypercars. First up, Citroen has squeezed out complexity: it has 30 per cent fewer parts than the outgoing Citroen C3, a cute hatchback rather than a baby SUV. 

Engineers describe it as a low-cost programme, which has lifted the philosophy (if not components due to differing regulations) from Citroen’s low-cost car programme for India and Brazil. That means a different, cost-saving approach for suppliers, manufacturing and to the equipment list, with a big red pen crossing out leather upholstery, powered seats, a glass roof, drive modes, paddleshifts and so forth.

Citroen has taken great delight in offering only the features customer say they want and use – but has it gone too far?

Cuddly seats and no-frills screens 

Open the new Citroen e-C3, jump in and the plump, padded seats swaddle you like a hug from Jürgen Klopp. There’s even enough headroom for the gangly former Liverpool FC  manager, allowing you to crank the seat high to see over the flat bonnet. It’s an imperious perch for a front-wheel drive supermini – the EV has 163mm of ground clearance on its 17-inch alloys. 

You’ll need to use a key to turn it on – keyless go is on the banned list. Instead of a digital driver’s binnacle lighting up with fancy software animations, Citroen’s definition of a ‘head-up display’ sits in a recess just beneath the top of the dash and it looks a bit like a ‘90s Renault Espace’s.

It features a digital speedo, battery charge level, selected gear and can toggle through trip info and the like. And having just the one driver’s display (rather than an actual HUD on the windscreen made largely redundant by the instrument binnacle) reduces parts and cost.

Naturally there’s a central touchscreen: the graphics are basic but you can render Apple CarPlay and Android Auto instead. Both UK trims (Plus and Max) get it but it’s not standard kit In mainland Europe: customer smartphones will provide the connectivity on the lead-in €14,990 Puretech petrol for example.

On the move in the 2024 Citroen e-C3

In a world of rapid, instant-torque EVs, the e-C3 sounds a bit underpowered: a modest 83kW (113 horsepower) motor turns the front wheels. But it’s plenty enough to spin the 1483kg SUV up to urban speeds, and its decent mid-range torque is sufficient to overtake the ambling traffic through Austria’s flat, verdant wine country. 

Citroën has copied Peugeot’s i-Cockpit shrunken steering wheel (to do so it had to get permission from its sister brand): the vegan leather feels silky to the touch and it never obscures the high-set HUD. The steering twirls breezily through low-speed manoeuvres, abetted by a parking camera on top-spec Max models (entry-level Plus cars only get a rear sensor); use your eyes as the forward sensor. Accelerate up to town speeds and the steering adds heft quite nicely but it’s languid swinging off dead-centre, and the nose is reluctant to swoop into corners.

These chilled dynamics are in tune with a decluttered cockpit Citroen describes as zen-like, which makes a virtue of the less-is-more surroundings. The standard air-con (automated on Max trim) is controlled by physical toggles, there’s a silver rotary gear selector and that’s about it. 

Variety comes from a litany of patterns – plastic sections are etched in wavy and straight lines, haphazard perforations adorn the light fabric trim and the headliner is a pale colour. Some gloss black trim offsets swathes of scratchy plastics (totally acceptable in a value car), the door bins have white inserts to help you spot things and little red labels with peppy messages – ‘Have fun!’ and ‘Be cool!’ – are stitched into the armrests. An outbreak of Mini vibes in an otherwise logical interior.

Overall it feels airy and spacious up front, belying the C3’s supermini stature.

Into Hungary – and a test for the comfort suspension

The soft suspension is noticeable from the get-go, with accelerator and brake triggering some bobbing around. But Austria’s smooth roads are no test for Citroen’s hydraulic bump stops, which smoothly dissipate the energy from extreme suspension extensions or compressions and are fitted to a C3 for the first time.

Usefully Hungary’s tarmac is the complete opposite. Scoring, craters, bumps that double up as a launch pad, the C3 gets a thorough workout. The body is bounced up and down but it’s always a soft landing, thanks to the impressive cushioning effect – the C3 is like a driving a padded cell. And even after big shocks, the body only takes a stroke or two to settle. Such comfort boosts the zen-like feeling on board.

An unintended consequence might be a car that goes to pieces in corners. And the C3’s body does roll lustily but it’s progressive, and even though the body sometimes feels like it’s heading for a different postcode to the wheels, the Goodyear tyres never threaten to give up grip.

Citroen e-C3: battery and charging details 

Packed into the 2.54m wheelbase is a 43.7kWh usable battery, using the lower-priced lithium iron phosphate chemistry beloved by BYD. It’s good for a 198-mile range on the WLTP testing cycle.

Citroen says the battery can be charged from 20 to 80 per cent in 26 minutes, which sounds impressive but remember this is a modest battery. Max DC charging is actually just 100kW. 

While many electric cars offer grades of regenerative braking and sometimes a one-pedal driving mode, the 2024 Citroen e-C3 unsurprisingly keeps it simple. Lift off the accelerator and the Citroen smoothly slows, in a manner that resembles combustion engine braking. So the friction brakes get more use than in some EVs, and the pedal is responsive and effective. 

On our incredibly undemanding route – flat, with minimal motorway and mostly 50-60mph A-roads and quiet towns – the e-C3 returned 4.67 miles per kWh. It’s not the quietest of EVs: wind noise starts kicking in past the 50mph mark, and you’ll get added tyre grumble and some motor whine at motorway speeds. 

Are the rear seats and boot spacious?

The rear seats aren’t the cheap seats: they have the same extra padding and handsome design as up front. And space is surprisingly plentiful thanks to the high roof and high-set seats: a 6ft passenger can sit behind a 6ft driver without his knees touching the seat back, so long as the driver doesn’t insist on a sports car driving position.

The boot stows 310 litres of luggage but it has an awkwardly high loading lip, resembling looking into a wishing well. The rear seat splits 60:40, and you can stow 992 litres with both folded down.

Verdict: Citroen e-C3

Citroen’s new C3 is an Aldi in a Sainsbury’s world where car manufacturers have over-specified superminis.

It’s good value but doesn’t feel cheap, with Citroen putting the money where customers will benefit, namely in the comfort, packaging and a pint-sized electric drivetrain. The real-world 180-mile range will put off some, even though it could take you from London to Sheffield non-stop.

For consumers pondering going electric for their low-mileage or second car, the e-C3 has much to admire. The order books open in July 2024 with deliveries in November. There are no frills and no thrills but the e-C3 a clever and loveable car – and a breakthrough for European EVs.


Price when new: £22,000
On sale in the UK: Orders July 2024, deliveries November 2024
Engine: 44kWh battery pack and single e-motor, 113bhp
Transmission: Single speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 10.0sec 0-62mph, 198-mile range, 0g/km CO2, 100kW charging (20-80% in 26mins)
Weight / material: 1483kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4015/1755/1577mm


Photo Gallery

  • Citroen e-C3 review: the new all-electric C3 tested
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance
  • Citroen e-C3 review: zen and the art of occupant maintenance

By Phil McNamara

Group editor, CAR magazine